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Italy with Eileen Ogintz

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There is a reason the Mediterranean is a destination so many visitors choose to explore by sea. The waters are warm and inviting, the ports are cultured and captivating, and every sailing brings guests something new and unexpected. Acclaimed travel writer Eileen Ogintz nears the end of her voyage, having veered east from Venice to explore the wonders of Croatia’s Adriatic coastline, then around the boot of Italy up toward Rome. Eileen’s time aboard the Wind Surf does not end quietly – from volcanic eruptions to an elegant al fresco dinner to the cobblestone streets of Positano, her adventure ends as eventfully as it began:

Positano seen from upper street. Photo by Andrew Yemma.

I can’t believe what I’m seeing.

It is pitch black and we are standing on the deck of the Wind Surf deck watching lava spew down from a volcanic cone on the island of Stromboli off the Coast of Italy.

I’m so glad Captain Maurits Groothuis alerted us to the site. Wow! The lava is bright orange in the black sky. When we get close enough, we can hear it too.

We ‘d just finished dinner at Candles, where just 40 of us (no extra charge but reservations needed) are served in the most romantic atmosphere we could get—white table cloths, the sails billowing, attentive service (the servers all know our names!) and delicious steaks.

Eileen enjoys iced coffee in Positano. Photo by Andrew Yemma.

I see what Captain Groothuis said when he suggested by the end of the week, we’d feel as if this was “our” yacht.

I couldn’t imagine a better ending to our evening than finishing our wine watching Stromboli.

Our last morning, we are in Sorrento. We just don’t have enough time!   We opt to take an hour boat cruise (a ship excursion) to picturesque Positano because we have already seen the ruins at Pompeii and Herculaneum. Others go to Capri while some opt simply to tool around Sorrento so they will have enough time for a last chance on the yacht’s water sports platform. Sadly, I never did get to go down the water slide!

“Six hours is not enough on the Amalfi Coast,” one woman said. I had to agree, though we made the most of our morning.

Positano from sea level. Photo by Andrew Yemma.

Positano is the quintessential Amalfi Coast resort town—well-heeled Italian tourists sunning themselves on the beach, relaxing with iced coffee on hotel terraces, the yachts anchored just offshore.  There are  impossibly quaint shops, one after another,  selling brightly painted ceramics, Limoncello (the lemon liqueur  everyone seems to drink here) and everything made with lemons from soaps to candies to candles and perfumes.

The higher we climb up the narrow cobblestoned streets, the more spectacular the views—pastel-colored houses built up the hills, the sea, the fishing boats lined up in the harbor, umbrellas shading the beach goers.

We have just  enough  time to have the distinctive sweet  iced coffee popular here, and do a bit of shopping (balsamic vinegar and lemon soap, of course)  before it is time to head back to our boat with a gelato in hand.  On the way back, we cruise past other small towns and villages, beautiful villas in the hills and Mt. Vesuvius.

I think we’re all a little frustrated we didn’t have more time here but a cruise like this one, after all,  is meant as a “sampler” so that “You’ll know where you want to return,”  a guest explained.  And I think she’s right.

Wind Surf anchored off Sorrento with Mt. Vesuvius in the background. Photo by Andrew Yemma.

We’re headed to Rome and the end of our trip thinking about Dubrovnik and Positano and the other places we’ve visited, savoring yet another perfect sunny afternoon and first-rate lunch (my favorite meals on board with inventive salads).

I’m not surprised that some on board are already thinking about where they’d like to cruise with Windstar next. Me too.

Read more from travel writer Eileen Ogintz at her award-winning column, Taking the Kids.

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